Middle Jurassic (Bajocian and Bathonian) dinosaur megatracksites, Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, USA


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Two previously unknown rare Middle Jurassic dinosaur megatracksites are reported from the Bighorn Basin of northern Wyoming in the Western Interior of the United States. These trace fossils occur in carbonate units once thought to be totally marine in origin, and constitute the two most extensive Middle Jurassic dinosaur tracksites currently known in North America. The youngest of these occurs primarily along a single horizon at or near the top of the "basal member" of the "lower" Sundance Formation, is mid-Bathonian in age, and dates to ??? 167 ma. This discovery necessitates a major change in the paleogeographic reconstructions for Wyoming for this period. The older tracksites occur at multiple horizons within a 1 m interval in the middle part of the Gypsum Spring Formation. This interval is uppermost Bajocian in age and dates to ??? 170 ma. Terrestrial tracks found, to date, have been all bipedal tridactyl dinosaur prints. At least some of these prints can be attributed to the theropods. Possible swim tracks of bipedal dinosaurs are also present in the Gypsum Spring Formation. Digitigrade prints dominate the Sundance trackways, with both plantigrade and digitigrade prints being preserved in the Gypsum Spring trackways. The Sundance track-bearing surface locally covers 7.5 square kilometers in the vicinity of Shell, Wyoming. Other tracks occur apparently on the same horizon approximately 25 kilometers to the west, north of the town of Greybull. The Gypsum Spring megatracksite is locally preserved across the same 25 kilometer east-west expanse, with the Gypsum Spring megatracksite more extensive in a north-south direction with tracks occurring locally across a 100 kilometer extent. Conservative estimates for the trackway density based on regional mapping in the Sundance tracksite discovery area near Shell suggests that over 150, 000 in situ tracks may be preserved per square kilometer in the Sundance Formation in this area. Comparable estimates have not been made for other areas. Similarities between the two megatracksites include their formation and preservation in upper intertidal to supratidal sediments deposited under at least seasonally arid conditions. Microbial mat growth on the ancient tidal flats apparently initiated the preservation of these prints.

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Middle Jurassic (Bajocian and Bathonian) dinosaur megatracksites, Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, USA
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